Technically speaking, it’s not a dream anymore. According to Wikipedia, human-powered airplanes date from 2008. Now the accomplishment includes hovering, or helicopter-type flight.
Back in June, a team called AeroVelo apparently met parameters for a landmark contest first established in 1980.
The AHS Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition prize for that feat was officially awarded on Thursday. (Monetary reward: $250,000. Accomplishment: priceless!)
This story requires some degree of Canadian chest thumping. As reported in Maclean’s Magazine, the AeroVelo flight team is mostly made up of graduates from the University of Toronto and the successful flight took place in the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan, Ontario. (You can also read about the exploits of a related group, the Human-Powered Ornithopter (HPO) project.)
The standard to meet was this: “A one minute hovering time, a momentary achievement of 3 meters altitude, and controlling the vehicle within a constrained box — all in the same flight ” (full rules are listed here.)
Here’s more on the competition, from Popular Science. (Note: “Atlas” is the name of the helicopter flown by the AeroVelo team):
Despite the prize going unclaimed for so long, the competition came down to the wire. The Atlas team was going up against two other aircraft, and one of them, the Gamera II, met the time requirement and came pretty close to the height requirement last year.
But lest you think this is the end of the three-decade-plus story, the American Helicopter Society, which oversees the prize, has announced “another grand challenge” coming soon.
The story of Icarus stands as a cautionary tale: follow instructions and understand limits – or suffer significant consequences.
True, the achievement is far from any real form of transportation. But no matter. Here’s how human ‘motor’ Todd Reichert framed the significance, according to Maclean’s Magazine:
“We do these kinds of human-powered projects because we are really interested in making sure people out there know there are solutions to challenges facing us in terms of sustainability and the environment,” he says. “Creative engineering and design and innovation can solve a lot of problems out there.”
Sounds good to me!